Informing The Read

A voice actor is not often given clear direction. Sometimes the creative team will resist the urge to say simple things like "assertive" or "playful"  or "pleasantly intelligent and instructive" and go into something like what you see here.

We make fun of that.

We understand why you speak this way. Everyday creative teams are working in broad strokes. Writers, art directors and producers spend huge amounts of time figuring out what a commercial "wants to be". They want to let the idea mature and grow into more than just words or images so they keep things open. And while that fosters a great creative environment, it's not helping the performer. Performers need solid direction. Not line readings. We need a motivation.

Now, there's a story about an actress asking a director "What's my motivation?" and him answering "Your motivation is your paycheck at the end of this shoot!"  That isn't using an actor. That's moving a mannequin around. Every time you fail to ask an actor to use some type of emotional tool, you're just getting the voice or face.

Citing celebrities only makes us think of imitation.  Or worse, where we fall on your opinion scale, which must be pretty low. "You want a young Donald Sutherland? Hire his son. I hear he does OK on Bank of America!"

How do you put an actor's emotional tool kit to work so you can "inform the read" as my voice coach Maurice Tobias calls it? Simple: Tell us your core idea. Is the idea to build trust? Create a new friend? Share the pain of struggle and then the joy of triumph? Love or lust? Hunger or desire? These are subtle hints any good actor can understand.

See how it works for your next audition. 

Do the normal breakdowns based on age, gender, vocal register and presence. Then a brief line about the motivation (and please never use that word).

Here's how I would have written the direction for the above: Male, mid register, no accent. Someone with a recent world traveler's understanding of humanity. Worth knowing. Has a cardiologist's cautious optimism.

And when you say that aloud, be British without being British.



I don't think this is a joke...